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Water and biodiversity recognised as vital for food security at IUCN Congress

September 8, 2012

Day 2 of the IUCN congress focused on the nexus between biodiversity, water and food security and saw the World Bank get serious about nature conservation.

A diversity of food at market. Photo: Claudia Peters

The day’s theme was ‘secure nature, secure food, secure water‘. Highlighting the link between biodiversity, water and food security, the aim was to address a lack of understanding among many policy makers of the importance of biodiversity for achieving food security. Wild sources of food are often overlooked in discussions about food security, but they form an integral part of many people’s diets around the world, especially for poorer, rural communities. Humans consume more than 7,000 different species of plants and animals, many of them wild!

In addition, loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems undermines health, livelihoods, food production, and the availability of clean water. For example, many freshwater molluscs, such as clams and mussels, make up important parts of people’s diets, but they also play a crucial roles as natural filters of freshwater ecosystems and barometers of ecosystem health. Yet freshwater molluscs are among the species that are most threatened with extinction.

The focus of discussions ranged from the role of technology to energy consumption and agriculture, but unfortunately the role of freshwater biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides was not explicitly covered. While the topic was a hotly debated one, one message was clear: food security in the coming years can and must be based on equitable and sustainable use of natural resources.

In another significant development, the World Bank stated today that it is necessary to “put nature at the heart of the economy”. Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, stressed in a speech the need to put nature at the centre of economic strategies and argued that we need economic growth with an environmental dimension. She also called on the private sector to take nature conservation seriously, even recommending that nature be discussed in the boardroom.

The BioFresh Booth!

While all this was going on, BioFresh hosted a presentation on the use of freshwater biodiversity data to aid in conservation planning and introduced the BioFresh data portal to the IUCN congress. The presentation discussed the importance of improving the availability and accessibility of biodiversity data for obtaining a better understanding of species distribution and threats, which is necessary for setting conservation priorities. The BioFresh data portal helps scientists to advertise and publish their data(bases) and to provide tools for the discovery, integration and analysis of open and freely accessible freshwater biodiversity data.

With the presentation finished, there was just enough time for our BioFresh representative, Aaike de Wever, to take a stroll around the exhibition hall. There are over 150 booths in the exhibition hall with representatives from organisations as diverse as Conservation International, Google, France (!) and even a booth about buddhist culture. It’s great to see such a wide range of voices represented and discussing nature conservation and development issues!

More about freshwater at the IUCN Congress soon!

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